I dreamt I was on vacation with my wife Louisa in Philadelphia. I followed her into a large drugstore, where she needed to buy some things. I noticed my cousin Rick Kaplin and Ronnie Gerstle, both of whom I knew from Camp Kennebec in Maine, standing at a cash register behind the counter. By the time we reached the counter, Rick had disappeared and Ronnie was alone there. I forgot all the things I planned to say to Ronnie. It was as though I suddenly forgot everything I knew about him. So I asked him where Rick had gone. He said Rick had returned to his store across the street. After she paid, Louisa stopped at a high round table, where someone might sit with a coffee or a drink. She started balancing her checkbook, endlessly. Impatient, I headed outside without her, even though we were on vacation together.
The butcher shop across the street had a long, narrow entrance hall and a large room in back, ballooning out to the right. Five men were working there. “Is Rick Kaplin here?” I asked. The apparent owner pointed to a guy in the middle. It wasn’t really Rick, it was someone else. This Rick looked incredibly young. I said, “Hi, Rick, it’s your cousin, Michael Ruby,” speaking more soulfully than I planned. There was something wrong with Rick, he couldn’t look at me, he seemed to be hiding his face. He was schizophrenic, I decided. Also incredibly muscular, so overpumped he was almost toppling over, and covered with small pink pimples. “You remember me?” I asked. “I’ve gotten your emails,” he said, probably referring to emails I’ve sent out in the past announcing various books. “I don’t think I’ve ever sent you any.” “I’ve gotten your emails,” he said, his tone faintly negative. He walked slowly toward me, reaching out to shake my hand, but then he gripped my hand very hard, and I realized he wasn’t going to let go, he was going to try to kill me. Of course, it made perfect sense. Rick hated my guts, Rick hated me the most of any person in my entire life, Rick hated me with a supernatural hatred. How could I have forgotten? I struggled fiercely against the muscleman’s grip, trying to reach the door down the dingy hall. Why did the hall have to be so long? Suddenly, the tarnished bronze knob was in reach. If I could open the door, I could yell for the police. There were police on the street. At this point, I awakened from the nightmare. My first thought was: Thank God this is a dream. My next thought was: Rick can’t hurt me, he’s been dead for 25 years, struck by a taxi in Central Park at the age of 28. This was a dream about seeing my dead cousin, the person who hated me the most of anyone in my life, and he tried to kill me.